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(Jesus) also told them a parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher."
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Jesus was an expert at painting pictures with words. That is what he did when he told his parables. Instead of some lengthy wordy high brow intellectual description Jesus would tell a simple story. His stories were drawn from everyday life and were easy to grasp.
This morning we have one such word picture to consider. Here it is put in the form of a couple of questions. Jesus has done this because he wants his hearers to think a little bit for themselves. We tend to remember things a bit better when we've been actively involved even if the intellectual effort hasn't been very demanding.
Here are those two questions:
"Can a blind man lead a blind man?"
"Will they not both fall into a pit?"
You don't have any problem at all at visualising the scene do you? Let's think about it in terms of our 21 st century lives.
In your mind's eye you can see one blind person with his white stick and he's waiting to cross a busy road. The traffic thunders by with hardly a break in the flow and there are no lights that will cause the cars to stop or slow down.
How's he going to do it? How's he going to get safely to the other side?
Well the answer is easy isn't it? He needs someone to come along who is prepared to help him. You've maybe even done this yourself as you've seen a blind person and you have stopped to help them cross over a busy road. You were able to do so because you could see clearly when a break in the traffic came and you could set our perhaps holding up your hand to indicate to a distant vehicle to slow down.
But that is not quite the picture that Jesus paints for us. Yes, the blind man with his white stick is there by the edge of the road but it is no person blessed with 20/20 vision who stops but another blind person with another white stick!
This scenario has "disaster" written all over it; there is an accident waiting to happen.
Those who listened to Jesus that day knew that the countryside in Israel was pock-marked by pits and holes. They knew just how easily a blind person might stumble and fall into dangerously into a pit and be left in a very precarious position indeed.
The answers to the two questions that Jesus asked have obvious answers and you don't struggle to answer them one little bit.
Can a blind man lead a blind man? No, of course he can't.
Will they not both fall into a pit? (read pot-hole if you prefer) Yes, sadly they will.
But why did Jesus recount such a simple story? What was his purpose in telling it? Yes, of course it would be foolish for a blind man to try to lead another blind person and yes it would be foolish for a blind person to follow a blind person but was there anything more to it than this early version of health and safety regulations?
Parables are simple stories and can be enjoyed as such but when Jesus used them they were full of spiritual truth. Are we prepared to listen and to think about what he said so that we might benefit from the truth he wants to share?
Are you ready for a spot of thinking?
We will proceed by asking a series of questions.
Question 1. Who are the blind people in this story?
Well on the surface the answer to that question is very easy isn't it? There are two blind folk:
The one being led
The one trying to do the leading
But who do these two people represent? How does the story relate to us?
a. The one being led
Well the Bible makes is clear that all of us, when we are born into the world, are born with a spiritual problem. As members of the human race we are born members of a rebel community, we are naturally hostile towards God and cut off from him. We don't however like to admit this and come up with all kinds of argument to try to justify ourselves and to reject the damning verdict that we are sinners under the just condemnation of Almighty God. The trouble with us is that we are blind to the truth, we are blind in fact to all spiritual realities and if we have any reaction at all to spiritual matters it is to misinterpret them and to twist them.
Now none of us likes to see ourselves as needy people who are in such a desperate condition that we are totally dependent upon outside help to get us through. We all like to imagine that somehow we'll be able to muddle through or that somehow if we do our best then nothing more can be asked of us and everything will be alright. No, none of us likes to admit our need until God begins to work in our lives!
You are in this little parable this morning. In one of two ways you are all there this morning. You've either recognised your spiritual blindness or you haven't.
Have you realised that left to your own devices you are lost in spiritual blindness and that you desperately need of a guide not merely to show you the way but to be that way for you?
If you have, then take heart for Jesus came to save people just like you and to deliver them from their spiritual predicament that includes their spiritual blindness and to lead them to God.
But maybe you haven't realised that you are blind and you've been blissfully continuing as though everything was fine then take heed this morning. Your blindness may be the blindness of rank unbelief or it may be the blindness of self-deception – but whatever it is and however it expresses itself in your life it is dangerous. May God be pleased to speak to you and to graciously reveal to you just how serious your predicament is. Listen on because the blind can be made to see – this is God's work and in particular it is the work of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus!
Ps.146:7-8 "The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind."
Is.42:16 "And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground."
Lk.7:22 "And (Jesus) answered (John's disciples), "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them."
b. The blind guide
The desire to help another may be laudable but desire does not equate to ability. Sadly not everyone who proposes to help us is in fact capable of doing so. There are folk out there who although they are totally unable or unqualified to help will nevertheless put themselves forward as the answer to another's problems, perhaps to your problems...
Isn't this something that we need to take on board? We turn on the radio and listen to thought for the day and our ears prick up as we hear the Bible being mentioned and Jesus is referred to – but does the person know what he is talking about? Does this person tell us the truth? How we need to be careful not to allow ourselves to be led by guides who are spiritually blind themselves!
In Jesus own day there were plenty of such "blind guides" – they formed the religious elite, the religious establishment and how sure they were of their knowledge, of their abilities. Yet towards the end of his ministry Jesus castigated them for their spiritual blindness and for their leading others to follow the wrong path. These were the scribes and the Pharisees and there were probably quite a lot of them in the crowd as Jesus was preaching his sermon. Earlier in the chapter we are given something of a glimpse into what they were really like:
They watched Jesus closely because they wanted to find a reason to accuse him. Their hearts were hard and there was neither compassion nor genuine understanding of the purposes of God in their lives – oh but they thought they had all the answers; they were spiritually blind but didn't realise it and they tried so hard to lead and direct others.
Question 2. What help or guidance is needed?
What help does the blind person in Jesus' story need? Well, he obviously needs a good guide but who can be a good guide? What are the qualities of a good guide?
Do you know what qualities to look for when you need someone to guide you spiritually? Are those qualities growing and developing in your own life so that you might be a help in guiding someone who is spiritually lost?
The story is simple isn't it? The first and most obvious quality that the guide needs to have is the ability to see!
"Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?"
So the first and most important thing we must look for in a guide is his/her own ability to see. It doesn't matter whether someone is a very nice person, very well meaning, very moral and respectable – if they have no spiritual vision then they are definitely not to be followed!
So you must not turn to the atheist for direction and guidance – it is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God. And you don't have to be a card carrying member of Humanist Society to be an atheist, there are plenty of practical atheists out there. The practical atheist may even say he believes in God but who never relates to him in everyday life, he never prays, he never worships, he never honours him never reads his word.
Nor must you turn to others who use religious language but deny its power and its truth. You won't seek guidance among the religions of the world because Jesus declared himself to be the only way to the Father. But neither will you follow those within the Christian tradition who reinterpret and deform the Christian message because Jesus is also the truth and he remains the same yesterday, today and forever.
No, the kind of guide you need, the only safe type of guide to follow is someone who sees spiritually and knows personally the truth as it is in Jesus!
Later in the NT we are told what kind of character is required of those who would lead local church congregations – it is the character of one who sees! We've already heard read some of what the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy on this subject, let's hear a little more. This is what a good seeing guide is to be like, how he is to behave:
2Tim.4:2-4 "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."
Such guides will lead you to Jesus Christ.
Can you too be such a guide to others who are yet spiritually blind?
Jesus was primarily speaking to his disciples and they would soon be sent out on mission to represent their Master. Maybe they were worried and anxious – how could they ever hope to lead men and women who were spiritually blind? And then of course they would be opposed by those blind pharisaical bigots who were so well educated, so well trained. What hope was there for these rustic disciples who were unschooled and uneducated?
Well, yes they might be all that and they would never outshine their Master but they would be made more and more like him as they were trained by him. Their enemies would be forced to take note that these men had been with Jesus!
Yes, you can if you are a Christian be a guide to those in need – not because of your cleverness but because of the One in whose service you have entered. You can be such a guide by learning in Christ's school, by being one of those who spends time with Jesus learning of him. You can help the spiritually blind because God has had mercy upon you and giving you spiritual sight so that you have understood firstly your own need and secondly you have been brought to see just how marvellously Jesus has met that need!
Question 3. Why is it so important to follow the right guide?
Again it is the parable that tells us why this whole matter is so important – there are pits to avoid falling into. The consequences of being wrongly led or guided in the spiritual realm are extremely serious and not in the slightest benign.
Pits are frequently referred to in the Bible and as I mentioned earlier were a well-known feature of the geography of the land of Israel. And pits were serious. A pit might be a naturally occurring phenomenon or it might be deliberately dug. A pit most often served to hold water but pits were also put to other more sinister uses.
Both Joseph and Jeremiah (among others in the Bible) found themselves thrown into pits – they were used as prisons or dungeons and were difficult if not impossible to escape from without help from the outside. Pits were also dug and used as traps to deliberately catch and restrain wild animals.
Because of this sinister side to the pit the word also came to be used as a picture to describe any situation of danger or disaster. The last book of the Bible speaks in graphic terms about another pit, a bottomless pit.
A pit then speaks to us in picture language of a serious danger to be avoided – falling into a pit was a disaster to avoid. David in Psalm 28 prayed to avoid falling like this:
Ps.28:1 "To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit."
But the Bible does not only speak of the need to avoid disasters it also speaks glowingly and warmly of a heaven to be won – and Jesus is the way there!
There is yet hope for it is still the day of salvation. Stop following blind guides who will only lead you into disaster and call upon the Lord to have mercy on you, to give you the spiritual sight you need to see, understand and appreciate your need and his provision.
And don't fear that it's too late that perhaps you've already fallen too far and there's no hope left – there is yet hope for our God is gracious and kind and still saves sinners who call on the name of the Lord.
Once more the psalmist is helpful – the Lord can even deliver those who have fallen:
Ps.40:2 "He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."
The LORD is the One who is able to save and completely deliver us from awful danger – have you called on him? He is the only One who:
Ps.103:4 "who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,"
Where do you see yourself most clearly in this short parable this morning?
Are you trying to lead others when you can't yet see properly yourself?
Are you still spiritually blind and aware of your need of a good seeing guide to direct you?
Or have you been successfully led to put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus and are now seeking to learn in Jesus' discipleship school that you too might be able to be guide others who are still lost in their blindness?
Jesus taught with a view to us putting his words into action. Will you do what he has told you today?